Miami developer Colombo wins $2 million jury verdict in jet-set dispute

 

dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com

Miami high-rise developer Ugo Colombo has won a major battle in a twisted legal drama involving several prominent South Florida developers and a $22 million jet.

This week, a Miami jury issued a verdict awarding Colombo more than $2 million in damages that, it said, he is owed by Design District mogul Craig Robins. The lawsuit was the result of a falling-out between the two developers, who years ago split the price of a Bombardier Challenger jet only to become embroiled in years of nasty legal wrangling and accusations.

“This was a complete vindication,” said Jim Robinson, an attorney representing Colombo.

The two developers have been at odds since shortly after Robins took the jet on a round-the-world trip in 2008. Afterward, he was accused of refusing to pay $200,000 in related bills by Turnberry Management, which the two developers had hired to manage the aircraft.

Turnberry sued Robins, who counter-sued and accused Colombo of reneging on a verbal agreement to buy the jet. Robins said Colombo had coerced Turnberry — owned by the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel’s Soffer family — to sue him in order to stick him with a hefty renovation bill.

Robins ultimately settled with Turnberry and then filed a malicious-prosecution claim against Colombo. Meanwhile, the Soffers and their employees filed affidavits saying they had sued Robins as a favor to Colombo, who had secretly funded the litigation. They said Colombo wanted to force Robins to continue paying half the debt on the plane while Colombo kept it for his sole use.

Colombo’s attorneys countered that the Soffers were now “in bed” with Robins, who had kindled a romantic relationship with Jackie Soffer. They also said Robins had stopped paying his portion of the debt on the plane in 2011, leading Bank of America to sue Colombo and forcing the corporation Colombo create to own the jet, UC Challenger LLC, to turn to bankruptcy court to sell the now-devalued plane.

Those proceedings, now almost a year old, are ongoing.

But this month, Circuit Judge Darrin Gayles threw out Robins’ claims that Colombo had agreed to buy the plane. And on Monday, a jury ruled in favor of Colombo, who they said did not “have unclean hands.”

“All I ever wanted was for Craig Robins to pay his fair share of the airplane expenses,” Colombo said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Reached by phone, Dennis Richard, Robins’ attorney, stressed that his client is not in default with Bank of America.

As for whether Robins would appeal, he would only say: “It’s not over.”

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